Woman says airline misplaced father's remains - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Woman says airline misplaced father's remains


A Killen woman said her father's remains got lost in transit. Nikki Tapp said Delta Airlines pushed the arrival of her fathers remains back, delaying the funeral.

Then his body showed up early with no one to pick it up.

Delta is calling it a miscommunication, but Tapp said it was disrespect. At 59, Tapp's father, Johnnie Kelley, died suddenly while working construction in Ghana.

Tapp said after ten days and a lot of paperwork, his flights back to the U.S. were booked. But the morning of his funeral, Tapp said the funeral director got a phone call that his remains were delayed in New York. But when she called back, she got a different answer.

"He was in Atlanta, and he was at a facility called Atlanta perishables," said Tapp.

It was the first in a series of mix-ups and miscommunication.

Tapp said she pushed the funeral back and planned to pick up her fathers remains on a new scheduled arrival time, but the evening before that the funeral director got another call.

Her father's body showed up at the Huntsville airport early but there was no facility to keep her father. Tapp and the funeral home rushed to pick up her father's remains and buried him the next day.

"It made me angry. No, angry is not even a good word, because I am beyond angry. They took a horrible situation and made it worse," said Tapp.

Delta told WAFF 48 News that they admit mistakes were made when it came to communication. They released this statement:

"We take very seriously our responsibility to transport human remains with dignity and respect. All human remains we ship are handled with the utmost care, and we sincerely regret that a miscommunication within Delta caused any delay or confusion about the arrival. We have addressed the incident with each of the stations involved and are working directly with the customer to resolve the situation.

 "Nearly every day customers entrust Delta to transport human remains around the world, and through that we have earned a well-established and long-standing reputation for the care with which we carry those remains. 

"Additionally, we have groups of employees around our system who, on a volunteer basis, perform honor guard ceremonies for the remains of military personnel who are returning to their families."

Still Tapp worries this type of situation will happen again. She said she is making it her mission to make a change.

"I want Delta to improve their policy. This is my mission, this is my goal. I want Delta to improve the way they handle these situations," she said.

A representative from Delta called Tapp to apologize. In a letter, they also offered her $166.68. The letter indicated that amount represents Delta's portion of the freight charges. Tapp said she'd rather Delta improve their communication than accept a check.

For the record, Delta said Tapp's father was never lost. Again, they said it was an unfortunate series of miscommunications.

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